(Warning, the content of this post is about an analysis on Kamen Rider Gaim which means it will contain spoilers for show, if you haven’t watch it and wish to experience the show unspoiled, feel free to exit this. Thank you)
Tokusatsu has always been a big part of my childhood for as long as i can remember. I watched Power Rangers (this is the american version but still), Ultraman, Kamen Rider etc. ever since i was a little. Though of course, like any other human being, i grew up and matured along with my taste. Looking back at those show, i never realize how really corny they are.
Kamen Rider is probably the one that i didn’t watch all that much compared to the other two. I don’t really know why though. However, Gaim piqued my interested when i found out that Gen Urobuchi was the head writer for this project.
If you have been into anime community long enough, you’ll pretty much already know how big of a deal Urobuchi is. He became popular among anime fandom ever since his work on Madoka Magica. As for me personally though, while i have only watch Madoka and Fate/Zero, i can safely say that popularity is well earned. His style may not be for everyone, but i like his writing in general. So based on curiosity regarding how Urobuchi will write children show and to relive some childhood memories, i’ve decided to watch Gaim.
But first, some context.
According to the several interview that i found, Urobuchi was offered the job after some night drinking with the producer. He thought that he really need to take this job, because he has been writing anime for quite some time and he decided to challenge himself by doing something new.
I have a bit a mixed response for this. While i definitely respect his wishes on doing something new and to expand his horizon, i was sad because it means that aside from Expelled From Paradise movie that came out this month, there wasn’t any anime work from him since last year (well he did write the first three episode of Aldnoah). But if it means this will make him a better writer and created more awesome anime work in the future, i guess i don’t really mind.
So with that said, here are some analysis on Kamen Rider Gaim.
Gaim set in the city of Zawame which has been overtaken by a mysterious wealthy corporation named Yggdrasil. In order to raise the spirit of its citizen, a group of youngsters who called themselves Beat Riders, decide to entertain the citizens by doing public performance through dancing. However, multiple team of Beat Rider soon showed up and started declaring territorial wars on one and the other. They solved this conflict through the means of Inves Game, which is the game where each of the group representative summon mysterious creature known as Inves by using a device named Lock Seed and battle each other with the said creature. The winner get the right to have the stage for their performance and have their rank raised.
Our protagonist is a young adult named Kouta who used to be a Beat Rider himself, belonging to the titular Team Gaim. He quit because he needs to get a job to support his family (him and her sister) since he didn’t want to keep burdening her sister, but if there’s one thing that he wants to do is to change/transform himself into something better.
One day, he was called by his friend Yuuya who’s also Team Gaim’s leader. When he arrived to the meeting place however, Yuuya was nowhere to be found and he only ran into his former teammate Mai. The two of them then found a strange “crack” which lead them to a mysterious forest. In there, Kouta found an odd belt and accidentally wear it. When he grabbed the fruit in that forest while wearing the belt, the fruit turn into a Lock Seed. Suddenly, an Inves attacked them. Kouta discovered that he can transform himself into an Armored Rider by using the belt and the Lock seed that he just found. He use this to defeat the monster. And his journey began from there.
I will only touched upon several things that i found interesting in this post, so i won’t really go in depth.
Plot wise, the series didn’t start with Kouta suddenly became a hero. In fact, he does what an ordinary joe would do if they suddenly have a power, he mess around with it (with a quite funny result) and later on he uses to his new power to help out his team during the Inves Game. But slowly, secrets and truth revealed themselves and Kouta began to accept the responsibility that comes with his power. I really liked that the happy ending is earned and Kouta’s development throughout the series was a joy to watch. Urobuchi was a bit held back on plot because according to the interview, the fact there are multiple rider and the fruit motif is actually something that’s already been decided before he was hired and he did express some concern on how to work with the latter. Not to mention that he has to think about the toys that needs to be sold. In the end, he did managed to make it work.
Thematic wise, this is definitely Urobuchi’s less ambitious work, if we took account that he was writing for a more family oriented show however, its understandable. With that said, he did touched upon theme and message that is both relevant and important to its core audiences. The meaning of adulthood, the nature of power and he even give a somewhat complicated messages about lies and honesty. But this is still an Urobuchi show, so there are couple of themes that you’ll recognize on all of his recent work. Utilitarianism, hope vs despair, unfair system etc.. only this time around, he was a bit more blatant about it weirdly enough (the biggest offender is episode 23).
I also like on how he explored the meaning of transformation both in metaphorical and literal sense. How the power of it can transform us into a hero or the very enemy that we fight. And how transformation can cost us our humanity and a reason to fight. After all, if you’re no longer a human, why should you protect humanity who is no longer even your own kin.
In terms of character, they were all well written, though the development for each was unbalance( this show do have a quite large cast). Kouta was pretty much standard Urobuchi’s protagonist. Kind hearted, strong sense of justice, put value of other people over himself and last but not least, naive. His character develop naturally throughout and it was earned. I really do feel like he became mature by the end of the series.
There’s also Kouta’s other teammate and best friend named Mitsuzane (nicknamed Micchy) who is also the focus of the series. He was a little brother to the executive of Yggdrasil and he always being put under expectation of his brother to become his successor. Later, we found out that he has a dark side to his general kind demeanor. He was manipulative and a bit of a psychopath. And the series also became Micchy’s journey of downfall.
Lastly, i want to talk about Kaito who is the leader of Team Baron, rival to the Team Gaim. Kaito is a fine rival character. He walk the fine line between a brooding anti-hero and a sympathetic protagonist and parallel Kouta both in terms of personality and development nicely enough. Although he did goes back and forth in terms of motivation. One minute he didn’t care about playing hero and the other he decided to protect the city. He’s also quite an interesting twist of Urobuchi’s standard protagonist. While usually his protagonist recognize the error of the system and try to hope and also working to make it better, Kaito decided to best and triumph over the system altogether because he is sick of being the victim of the system and also being weak.
Welp, that’s all i can talk about this series. If you’re an Urobuchi fan and want more of his writing or you just want a well choreographed. well crafted action Tokusatsu, i say go check it out. It’s flawed but it’s worth your time to do it 🙂